"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: July 2015

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Personal Invitation from Rob Parnell

Dear Fellow Writer, 

Would you like to start making money writing and selling short stories?


If so, I’m inviting you to join my new Video Lecture Course, which launches in the next couple of weeks.

It’s called “The Easy Way to Write Short Stories That Sell” – and is an information and feature packed writing resource like no other!

If you want EARLY ACCESS, enter your email here, right now: SIGN UP 

In this special course – my first ever VIDEO Lecture Series - offered exclusively through Udemy - I’ll be covering:

·        How to come up with original ideas instantly
·        How to plot a story in less than ten minutes
·        How to write a short story in an hour
·        How to sell short stories to the marketplace
·        How to make money from stories on Amazon
·        How to improve your writing success
·        How to easily acquire a professional writer’s mindset
·        And much more!

I’ve put my best teaching methods to use in this course, so you'll learn through a combination of video lessons delivered by me, real life examples, and case studies, even quizzes to check your progress, and lots of supplemental material.

I’m looking forward to seeing you in the course.

Feel free to forward this email to friends and colleagues who would benefit!

All the best,

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell
Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Building Novel Templates

During some recent Easy Way to Write chat sessions I've been banging on about building novel templates assuming everyone knows what I’m talking about!

I sometimes forget that not everyone has read The Easy Way to Write a Novel That Sells.

Seriously, for the benefit of those who want to know how to construct simple plans for their novels, here's a simplified version of what's in the book.

First, know your characters inside out, work through a rough story outline either in your head or on paper, making sure it's your characters that define the story and not the other way round.

Okay, so that's the tough bit. Now for the easy bit.

Get a piece of paper and write 1 to 10 down the left hand side with plenty of space for writing in between.

Next to No 1, write Intro.

Next to No 10, write Finale

At No 1, write one sentence, no more, describing your opening scene.

At No 10, write one sentence describing the last scene in your book.

For instance, if you were writing a love story, next to No 1 you might write: ‘Jane finds herself alone after husband John dies’

At No 10, you might write ‘Dirk asks for Jane's hand in marriage.’

It's simplistic I know but that's almost the point.

Now, against 2 to 9, write down the major plot points that will take your reader from the beginning of your novel to the end. These will act as cues for scenes in your writing.

Now read it through. Is there logic? Does it seem satisfying? Is there a moral, a point to the story?

If so, good. If not, start again. Its no big deal.

If you’re happy with what you've got, write a couple of words, lines etc., linking the plot points.

These act as more cues for scenes in your novel.

Next, transfer everything on to PC and begin to expand on your short sentences.

Start to describe how you’re going to open scenes, what you’re going to write about, what actions take place, what the various conversations will be about and how issues might be set up and resolved.

At the end of this process you should have a draft template for your novel.

Read over if a few times to see if it includes everything you want to mention in your novel.

This is a great exercise for many reasons, not least that it helps you visualize your novel in its entirety, probably one of the best tricks you’ll ever have to pull as a writer!

Not only that, it can help you iron out problems before you start writing. 

Too many writers stumble during the novel because they run out of steam and can't remember where it was going, or discover it's now different from how they imagined it.

I know planning novels is not everyone's idea of creative bliss. 

Indeed many writers tell me they just can't do it, don't want to do it, and will fight to protect their right to make up the story as they go along.

Fine. That works for some.

But let me tell you something I've learned in my long career teaching writers to write novels.

With a novel template you are at least twenty times more likely to finish your novel than without one!

Sobering thought, eh?

So before you dismiss the idea, at least give the template a fair go.

Keep Writing!

"I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all."
E. B. White

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What to Leave OUT of Fiction

You probably won't be surprised to learn I read a lot of unpublished manuscripts. 

I also read a lot of published work. Are there some glaring differences between the two? 

You betcha.

The fact is most beginning writers write too much. 

That's okay for the first draft but when it comes to editing, you need to give that Delete Key a thorough work out!

Good writing is about pacing, about taking the reader on a journey and keeping in step with them along the way.

If you get the pacing wrong, the reader will stumble and begin to lose interest because it will seem you are more interested in writing words than telling a story.

Here are some tips on how to cut down on unnecessary verbiage!

The Art of Description

With the advent of global communication and the visual media, we all know what most things and even most places look like. 

It's no longer necessary to spend more than a couple of sentences establishing what things are, where scenes are set and what the weather is like, if that's important for mood.

Many readers nowadays will actually skip descriptive passages because they find them dull and interrupt the flow of the text. 

So, don't beat yourself up over getting all the details across - that's what the reader's imagination is for!

Qualify That

Sometimes we write scenes we're not sure the reader will understand - so we add extra words to explain ourselves, resulting in more confusion than clarity. 

For instance, look at this:

"With the divorce weighing on his mind, and his fears about losing his job, John was having difficulty deciding what to do with himself. Could he face going out, knowing that Pete would probably spend the evening ribbing him over his his inability to get along with his boss and his problems with his estranged wife?"

Clearly this is clumsy and confusing to read. 

Much better to remove the qualifiers and simplify:

"The divorce weighed on his mind. Did he want to go out? John wasn't sure. Pete would probably just want to rib him."

In the above version, even though the propositions are only loosely defined - the reader still gets it. 

You don't always need to explain every little nuance to get a point or two across. Quite the opposite in fact.

Room to Breathe?

When you write you make a contract with your reader - a person you must regard as your equal. 

Not someone who is slow to understand and needs to be carefully led, shown everything and generally talked down to.

It's perfectly okay to leave out obvious - and therefore redundant - details. 

You don't always have to explain exactly who said what, what happened where, why it happened and for how long it went on.

Too many new writers clog up their stories with unnecessary backstory, linking scenes, plot justifications and long complicated explanations of things the reader already regards as obvious.

If you write with honesty and intelligence, your reader knows what and who you mean - when you over explain, you insult the reader. Don't do it.


Quite often writing suffers because the reader doesn't know where you're going. 

They wonder why you're focusing on certain characters and details - especially when you haven't first hinted at the 'point' of your story.

When you open a piece, you need a big 'sign' that tells the reader you're going THIS WAY - so that the reader knows what to expect along the way. 

You need to define your objectives - your purpose - in some way on the first page.

For instance, if you're writing a murder mystery, don't spend the first chapter following the protagonist around doing her laundry. 

Get on with the story and as soon as you can, show us the body!

Play By The Rules

Especially in genre fiction, you have to adhere to certain rules, because that's what the reader wants. 

Horror stories need to be at least a little horrific - right from the start. 

Romance requires that you have the central lovers at odds with each other by page two. 

Science fiction and Fantasy require the elements of their genres too.

Publishers often say that, though many writers are good, they often write themselves outside of any given genre in their desire to be different or original - thereby, alas, disqualifying themselves from publication!

Of course it's important to be original - but if you can do that within the conventions your reader expects, your chances of publication skyrocket.


What you're looking for is sharp writing that relays the facts. 

When you go back and edit for sense, go for simplicity rather than exposition. 

If you waffle on about the intricacies of conflicting thought processes or meander through long descriptions of irrelevancies , you lose all sense of tension.

Pick up any popular novel. 

The best ones have no words that are about writing. 

They're all about the story.

Speech tags

Okay. Speech tags - you know all the 'he said, she cried, they exclaimed blah de blah' - I'll keep this advice simple and precise: 

Unless you're writing children's fiction, lose them. 

As many as you can. 

It's the way of the modern writer.

Use other, more subtle, ways of suggesting who is saying what. It's easily done; just requires a little thought.

You can refer to character's actions just before or after dialogue, or use different styles to suggest different people.

As an experiment, try editing out all of the speech tags from your next MS. 

I think you'll be surprised and... if you master this technique, publishers will love you for it!


Yep - we all know we're not supposed to use them, especially after a speech tag. 

They really are mostly redundant and add nothing to the story. 

Repeat to yourself three times before bedtime: I will edit out every word that ends in 'ly'! 

(I just noticed there are two in this section - oops!)

Well I could go on like this for hours - 'do this, do that, don't do that' etc. - 

I take writing very seriously, as I'm sure you've guessed. 

I hope these few tips will help you the next time you edit your final draft.

The general rule, by the way, is that at least 20% of your MS is probably surplus to requirements! 

And that goes for all of us!

Keep writing!

Rob Parnell

Rob Parnell

Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How To Write and FINISH Long Works

Writing short pieces - say up to around 5000 words - is fairly straightforward. 

You can, in most cases, just start writing and keep going until you've said everything you wanted and then go back and edit for sense.

If you've missed something out, you can slot it into the text. 

Or, if you've overdone a section - or the writing is bad or unnecessary - you have good friend in the delete button.

Writing longer pieces is different. Having a lot to say will take time and effort - the two things a writer cannot afford to waste.

So what's the best way to approach writing longer works?

It's all about preparation. 

It's about knowing where you're going and having some idea of your destination.

Some writers say they can't write using a plan - or even knowing what the ending is. 

They cite Stephen King - who says he doesn't know the endings of his stories when he starts out. 

It's deliberate, he says, because he wants to write his characters into impossible corners - and then work out how they're going to survive.

Obviously this works for Mr. King. 

He says the only book he wrote using a pre-written template was The Dead Zone - but he says he found the book depressing to write because he knew the ending!

Fair enough - but I'm not sure this approach works for every writer - especially new writers who really need to get that first novel written - all of it, down on paper, existing - to help them get that sense of 'yes, I can write a novel, I have proof.'

Most new writers never get to feel that because they stumble during the novel writing process - and the book goes unfinished.

There's really only one way to get a first draft down - and that is to write quickly. 

Write the first draft before you change your mind about it. 

Before you 'grow' a little and have a different viewpoint on the world and therefore your story.

It's easily done. You're all fired up with a story and can see its significance and importance - and then half way through - several months down the track - you wonder why you were so excited. 

Or you begin to change some character motivations slightly and, before you know it, the story doesn't work anymore and you have to bin it or start again.

Get your first draft down fast is always my advice - especially if it's your first novel. 

It doesn't matter how it reads. 

The first novel is a learning experience - an invaluable one. 

It will teach you more about the writing process than any other experience - and will stand you in great stead for the future.

But in order to write quickly you need a plan, a template you can refer to as you write - so you can push through blocks and keep on writing till the end.

The template can be a series of dot points, chapter headings or a detailed synopsis - it's up to you.

But that's my advice. If you sincerely want to write your first novel - make a plan. 

Know your characters, know your plot, know your story and its ending, before you start.

And then, keep writing - as fast as you can!


"Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the most. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out the window." William Faulkner







          Sherlock Holmes          

The Writing Academy

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